- Created on 08 November 2013
WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs in October, an unexpected burst of hiring during a month in which the federal government was partially shut down for 16 days.
The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in September, likely because furloughed federal workers were counted as unemployed. The report noted that the shutdown did not affect total jobs.
Employers also added 60,000 more jobs in the previous two months than earlier estimated.
The figures show hiring has picked up this fall. Employers added an average of 202,000 jobs from August through October, up from 146,000 from May through July. Private businesses added 212,000 jobs in October, the most since February.
“While we have to take today’s report with a grain of salt, we are impressed by the strength of the report,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, a brokerage firm. “Given the impact of the shutdown, we have to wait until November’s report to get a fuller picture of what’s happening this fall but we’re happy enough in the meantime.”
Stock futures fell after the report was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose. That suggests investors are worried that the better job numbers will prompt the Federal Reserve to pull back on its stimulus efforts sooner than expected.
One troubling detail in the report: the percentage of Americans working or looking for work fell to a fresh 35-year low. But that figure may have been distorted by the shutdown, too.
About 800,000 government workers were furloughed for all or part of the shutdown, which lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16. Many were counted as unemployed and on temporary layoff for purposes of the unemployment rate.
But the furloughed workers were still counted as employed by the government’s survey that counts jobs because they were ultimately paid for their time off. Federal government jobs fell only 12,000 last month.
Better-paying industries boosted job gains: Manufacturers added 19,000 jobs, the most since February. And construction firms gained 11,000 positions.
Hiring also jumped in lower-paying fields. Retailers added 44,400 employees. Hotels, restaurants and entertainment firms added 53,000 jobs.
- Created on 07 November 2013
This photo taken March 22, 2013, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington. (AP Photo /Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service issued $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds last year to people using stolen identities, with some of the money going to addresses in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Ireland, according to an inspector general's report released Thursday.
The IRS sent a total of 655 tax refunds to a single address in Lithuania, and 343 refunds went to a lone address in Shanghai.
In the U.S., more fraudulent returns went to Miami than any other city. Other top destinations were Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston.
The IRS has stepped up efforts to fight identity theft, but thieves are getting more aggressive, said the report by J. Russell George, Treasury's inspector general for tax administration. Last year, the IRS stopped more than $12 billion in fraudulent refunds from going to identity thieves, compared with $8 billion the year before.
"Identity theft continues to be a serious problem with devastating consequences for taxpayers and an enormous impact on tax administration," George said in a statement. The fraud "erodes taxpayer confidence in the federal tax system."
Thieves often steal Social Security numbers from people who don't have to file tax returns, including the young, the old and people who have died, the report said. In other cases, thieves use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns before the legitimate taxpayer files.
The IRS, which takes pride in issuing quick refunds, often sends them out before employers are required to file forms documenting wages, the report said.
"The constantly evolving tactics used by scammers to commit identity theft continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS, and we take this issue very seriously," the IRS said in a statement. "The IRS has a comprehensive and aggressive identity theft strategy that focuses on preventing refund fraud, investigating these crimes and assisting taxpayers victimized by it."
Despite budget cuts, the agency said, agents have resolved more than 565,000 cases of identity theft this year, three times the number of cases resolved at the same time last year.
A separate report by George said the number of identity theft victims is on the rise as thieves get more aggressive.
Through June, the IRS identified 1.6 million victims who had their identities stolen during this year's tax filing season, the report said. That compares with 1.2 million victims in 2012.
Many of these people didn't realize they were victims until they submitted their returns only to learn from the IRS that someone else had already used their Social Security number to file and claim a refund.
The IRS does a good job of eventually identifying the proper owner of Social Security numbers, but the process can be lengthy, the report said. For cases closed between August 2011 and July 2012, it took an average of 312 days to resolve the case and issue a proper refund, the report said.
The IRS said it has resolved most of this year's identity theft cases within 120 days.
Last year, the IRS issued 1.1 million refunds to people using stolen Social Security numbers, the inspector general's report said. Those refunds totaled $3.6 billion. By comparison, the IRS issued $5.2 billion in refunds to people who stole Social Security numbers in 2011, the report said.
Additionally, the IRS issued 141,000 refunds last year to people using stolen taxpayer identification numbers, which are typically used by foreign citizens who earn money in the U.S. Those refunds totaled $385 million, the report said.
Florida is a big target of identity theft in part because of the large number of older residents living there. Older and younger people can be targets for identity theft because many don't meet the income requirements to file a federal tax return.
Nearly 38,000 potentially fraudulent refunds, totaling $147 million, were sent to addresses in Miami last year, the report said.
Among individual homes, one address in Orlando received 580 tax refunds totaling $870,000 last year, the report said. Another Orlando address received 291 refunds totaling $466,000.
For this year, the IRS says it has developed a computer program that helps agents spot when multiple refunds are going to the same address or bank account. As of May 30, the program identified 154,302 tax returns and stopped $470 million in tax refunds from being issued, the report said.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has introduced a bill that would toughen criminal penalties for people who file fake tax returns under someone else's name. The bill would also require the IRS to get legitimate taxpayers the refunds they're due within 90 days.
"While these reports show that some progress is being made in reducing tax fraud, it's also clear that there is still much to be done and there are still a number of improvements that need to be made to protect both taxpayers and the U.S. Treasury," Nelson said.
- Created on 07 November 2013
The family of Kendrick Johnson has demanded answers for the mysterious death of the Georgia teen whose body was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat at his school in January. Johnson’s family insists that the boy was murdered.
With new videotape footage from a surveillance camera made available to the family, even more questions have been raised as a result.
A report from CNN reveals shots of Johnson walking in the gym at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, where a reported 36 cameras are positioned inside and outside the area where his body was discovered. On the first clip as part of the latest footage that was legally obtained by the Johnson family, the teen is seeing walking across the basketball court with another student trailing him.
Suddenly, a second clip jumps that shows Johnson running and other students appear in the shot later. Although CNN says this is how they received the video, it appears a quick edit was made, considering the quickness of other students appearing in the shot. CNN host Anderson Cooper said during a broadcast that it did appear the video was edited in some fashion, which would support the Johnson family’s claims of a cover up.
- Created on 07 November 2013
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A second suspect was arrested and charged in the abduction and killing of a Mississippi couple and their 7-year-old son, authorities said Thursday.
Cedric D. Mason, 30, of Jackson, was arrested late Wednesday on two counts of capital murder and two counts of kidnapping, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a news release. Authorities said they are still trying to piece together exactly what happened.
Police responded to the family’s wrecked and burned vehicle Saturday in a remote area southwest of Jackson. They later questioned Timothy Ladell Burns and authorities said he led them early Tuesday to the bodies at an abandoned home about a mile from the vehicle.
Burns has been charged with two counts of murder and arson. His court-appointed attorney couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday. Mason does not yet have an attorney.
Authorities have not released a motive for the killings or said whether Burns and Mason knew the family.
All three victims had gunshot wounds. Slain were 7-year-old Jaidon Hill, 30-year-old Atira Hughes-Smith and 34-year-old Laterry Smith (all pictured above). Hughes-Smith is the boy’s mother. Relatives said the couple was recently married.
MBI spokesman Warren Strain said Thursday in a statement Mason was arrested about 9:30 p.m. in Jackson by MBI agents, the U.S. Marshals Task Force, Jackson police and others.
“The preliminary investigation indicates Laterry Smith was murdered in a house in southwest Jackson. The crimes were committed in Hinds and Copiah counties and the district attorneys in those jurisdictions are conferring on the best manner to move forward with the prosecution of Mason and Burns,” Strain said.
Strain said investigators continue to gather evidence.
“We have theories, but the investigation will ferret out the facts,” Strain said Wednesday.
Sheriff Jones has said he believed Burns was driving at the time of the wreck and then tried to burn the vehicle. It’s unclear whether the victims were in the vehicle when it crashed.
On Monday, police recovered items linked to the family in a trash bin at a gasoline station in south Jackson, including clothing and Hughes-Smith’s work identification card from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Strain said authorities began watching Burns at a south Jackson motel Monday and arrested him around 11:30 p.m. when he went to a gas station.